Providing support and promoting respect for everyone with a visible difference

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A man with a facial visible difference wearing a yellow jumper, standing expressionless in a park as people walk by.

Stop the Stare

Staring can be damaging to the wellbeing of people with a visible difference. Our Stop the Stare campaign seeks to stop staring before it starts.

Whether conscious or unconscious, staring can be damaging to the wellbeing of those with a disfigurement or visible difference. The Stop the Stare campaign is all about educating people to be mindful of their behaviour and stop staring before it even happens.

Our film helps explain the impact that staring can have on someone with a visible difference. Please share it on your social media, with friends, family or colleagues to help us explain why staring needs to stop.


Top tips to stop staring before it happens

Overcome surprise

You’re less likely to stare if you are used to seeing people with visible differences. Popular culture makes this a challenge, featuring so few people with visible differences. That’s why we’re encouraging more brands, organisations, films and TV shows to positively include people with visible differences. Follow our social media channels for a more diverse and inclusive social media feed:

  • 43%

    experience hostile behaviour

    when they go out in public

  • 51%

    feel self-conscious or embarrassed

    as a result of having a visible difference

  • 38%

    are stared at

    when they go out

Start early

Parents tell us they get embarrassed if their young child points, stares or makes a loud comment about someone with a visible difference who they see in public. That’s why it’s so important to talk about and celebrate differences at home, from an early age. There’s a growing range of toys that feature positive representations of visible difference. Books are also a great way to introduce and talk about visible differences.

What may seem like a few seconds of staring at someone with a visible difference on the bus feels like a lifetime to the person experiencing it. I’ve had times when staring has sent me into a spiral of anxious thoughts, when I’d otherwise been very happy going about my day. Staring makes you question everything that happens around you, sometimes days after it happens – if you see people laughing, you question, “Are those people laughing at me?”

Jude, Changing Faces campaigner
A small girl wearing butterfly face paint and holding a drawing of a butterfly

Butterfly activity pack

Our butterfly activity pack (PDF download) is for younger children and combines celebrating difference with crafting and colouring.

What to do if you catch yourself staring

Sometimes it happens. If you ever find yourself staring at someone with a visible difference or disfigurement, here’s our advice about what to do next.

  • Smile: It’s a simple act that lets the person you’ve been staring at know you’ve realised your mistake. With a smile, you can show that your stare isn’t going to escalate into a negative comment or worse.
  • Say hi: You can change your stare into a more positive exchange by simply sharing a warm greeting, like “hi” or “good morning”.
  • Say sorry: Own your mistake and apologise. It’s rude to stare, so saying sorry acknowledges this.
  • Give a compliment: If you’ve been staring you’ve probably noticed something else about the person, other than their visible difference. You can always make a comment to break the ice after you’ve been caught staring, admiring someone’s clothes or a skill they have.
  • Don’t shout: If you’re with a young child and they stare, point or make a loud comment, it might feel embarrassing for you, but please don’t shout at or pull a child away. It’s best to simply explain that everyone looks different and that’s a good thing. Remember to smile at the person your child notices, they’ll learn from your behaviour.
  • Alter your gaze: You may feel surprised or curious if you meet someone with a visible difference for the first time. They might come for an interview or be serving you in a shop. If you are worried that you are staring at their visible difference, look at the bridge of their nose for a few moments until you feel more confident.

I call stares the silent killers. When someone stares it can make you very anxious. I’d be left thinking about what was going through their head about me.

Rory, Changing Faces ambassador

Please remember

The person you’ve caught yourself staring at has probably had to deal with lots of people staring and commenting before you. Don’t always expect a smile back or that the person will want to start a conversation.

Sign up for our allyship email course

It’s great that you want to take action and challenge the prejudice and discrimination too many people with visible differences and disfigurements still face today.

Become a visible difference ally. Take our free, short course, to be a better ally. You’ll learn more about living life with a visible difference, and it covers topics like what language to use, why we may stare in the first place and how to stop the stare.


Talk about difference

We want to get more people talking about visible difference and disfigurement, the prejudice people can face, and how we can challenge stereotypes about visible differences. You can help by hosting your own Face Equali-Tea Party, which comes complete with conversation starters.

Download your pack

Sign up for email updates

We campaign on everything from better representation of visible difference and disfigurements in film to preventing hate incidents and hate crimes. Get our regular supporter newsletter to keep up to date and support our work.

Become a supporter

It’s OK to not be OK

We’re here for anyone with a visible difference or disfigurement on their face or body. We know that constant stares, negative comments and abuse just because of how you look can really take a toll. Experiencing negative behaviours and reactions from others isn’t always easy to manage. But you’re not alone.

You might find our self-help pages are a good place to start. And our Support and Information Line team is here to listen and let you know about the services we offer, from our Online Community group to free, one-to-one counselling and wellbeing support.

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Face Equality Week

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Classroom and assembly resources

Our A World of Difference classroom and assembly resources have been created to help teachers deliver lessons about visible difference.

Hold a Face Equali-Tea Party

Hosting a Face Equali-Tea Party is a great way to connect with loved ones, enjoy a slice (or two) of cake, and raise vital funds for Changing Faces.